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Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have grown in popularity as hiring has moved to mostly online formats. From simple keyword searches, ATS systems have advanced with the use of AI. Now, these systems not only look for keywords, but they also look for the context, register if you are “keyword stuffing” and cross-reference your resume with your other available experience online.

This means that ATS systems look at resumes in much the same way that an actual person would. Because of this, you have to make sure that you are not only writing a resume that sounds good on the surface, but that has the correct context for your job, is submitted in the right format, and is tailored to the job you are applying for. If you take all of this into consideration, you can build a resume that gets you into an interview and a new job.

Formatting your resume is only a part of the challenge. You have to make sure that you know the system preference for submission, the precise qualities that a company is looking for, and what professional level you should be writing your resume for. Preparing a resume for entry, mid-level, or C-level positions are all different, and you need to make sure that you are following the correct protocols.

More Than Just Keywords

In the early versions of applicant tracking systems, the main concern was how many keywords were included in a resume. Systems would scan for pre-programmed keywords, total the count, and those with the highest count were passed on to human resources professionals. Now, however, it is an entirely different ball game.

With nearly 95% of fortune 500 companies using ATS systems, it is important to know that only the top 20% of applicants are allowed through. This means that you need to do your research on the exact position that you are applying for, the values that the company discusses on their website, and the overall certifications or credentials that they are looking for.

This applies to positions across the board, however, you must make sure that you’re creating the right type of position for the level that you are working. C-Level resumes are going to look entirely different from an entry-level position, and with good reason. When you are applying for executive-level positions, you want to ensure that your resume not only reflects your essential experience, and is tailored to your potential employer, but it effectively tells your professional story.

Do Your Research

By doing detailed research about your future employer, you increase your chances of making your way through the ATS systems and being hired. Besides researching the overall tone and goals of the company, you will want to do extensive research on the exact position you are applying for. This will help you build a list of keywords and skills that you will want to include in your resume, and give you a deeper understanding of what secondary skills they are looking for in a candidate.

Take the time to dig through the job posting. Find words that they use frequently, and read between the lines for specific qualities that they are interested in. Many companies will be interested in how you manage your time, collaborate with others, and respond to criticism. Their posting may not say that explicitly, so make sure that you know how to discuss your time management skills, and maximize your relevant experience.

Another thing to keep in mind is that ATS systems don’t just look at your resume. They will also scan your LinkedIn and other professional social media. This is the exact tool that LinkedIn uses to recommend jobs that are a match for your profile. When you update your resume, make sure that you also update your professional profiles to reflect your experience, the keywords you researched earlier, and any additional education or experience you’ve gained.

Certifications and Alternative Formats

Tailoring, researching, and formatting your resume is only part of getting hired. You have to make sure that you are continuing your professional education. Certifications are an excellent way to do this, and they can be acquired for everything from project management to data visualization tools like Tableau. Creating a section for certifications and education can help you include hyper-specific keywords and demonstrate your dedication to professional development.

A new type of resume has slowly become more common, as a way for companies to gauge communication skills and personality before meeting you in person. Having an effective video resume prepared can be a great tool to help you show off your personality, expertise, and show them that you are exactly who they want to hire. Make sure that you keep the video simple, and know your elevator pitch ahead of time. Authenticity goes a long way in this format, so make sure that you show off why you are excited about this job, and what has drawn you to it.

With so many formats available, pay careful attention to the filetype that they request in your application. While PDF is a popular format for most uses, it can make it much more difficult for ATS systems to scan your resume, which means you could be missing out on elements that make you an exciting candidate. Text files work much better for these systems, so make sure that you consider this not only when submitting but when creating your resume.